Archive for August, 2008

Baruch Marzel has a point

Monday, August 18th, 2008

The poster reads: “Murderous terrorists are freed. So why won’t they free Yigal and Hagai Amir?” (Hagai is Yigal’s brother, who was convicted of being an accessory to murder and is serving a 16-year sentence).
Yigal Amir poster

Right-wing activists on Monday unveiled a second campaign calling for the release of Yigal Amir, the assassin of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The decision came Sunday in a meeting of the ‘Committee for Democracy,’ after the cabinet voted to release some 200 security prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas…

A film called “Free Yigal Amir 2,” will be part of the campaign. The film will include footage of Hizbullah celebrations following killer Samir Kuntar’s release last month as part of the prisoner exchange for the bodies of captured IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Kuntar killed three Israelis in a terror attack in Nahariya in 1979…

“I don’t see a problem with a film like this that has the goal of preserving democracy and balance. If Samir Kuntar goes home, there is no reason why Yigal Amir should rot in jail,” [Baruch] Marzel said during Sunday’s meeting. “The leftists need to understand that democracy means real and full equality. I personally think that Kuntar’s crime is many times more severe than Amir’s. For the sake of justice and fairness there is no reason that Amir and other national prisoners should stay in prison when Israel gives goodwill gestures to killers.” — Jerusalem Post

It should be obvious that Yigal Amir must stay in prison. The real problem is that Arab terrorists like Kuntar should not have been released. But letting Amir out wouldn’t fix that.

Having said that, Marzel does have a point, which is that the planned “goodwill gesture” is also  beyond belief:

The Prison Service published Monday afternoon the full list of 199 prisoners to be released as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The list includes some murderers and collaborators, as well as Palestinians who attempted to carry out terror attacks and murders.

Many of the prisoners slated to be released were convicted of attempted murder, including some convicted of firing at people, possessing weapons and explosives, selling arms, and placing bombs…

[two of them] are Muhammad Abu Ali, who murdered a reserve soldier in Hebron and a Palestinian detainee suspected of collaborating with Israel, and Said el-Atba, who planted three explosive devices in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv markets and in Israeli buses. Israeli citizen Tzila Galili was killed in one of these attacks. — YNet

Note that this is not even a prisoner exchange, only a “gesture”! It is a slap in the face to the families of the murder victims, and to those who are still alive but maimed by the actions of these despicable criminals.

A source at the Prime Minister’s Office said that according to estimates presented by the defense establishment, the risk that the prisoners with blood on their hand will return to terror “is very very small.”

Even if true, this is irrelevant.  The ‘gesture’ is psychologically hurtful to Israelis, it damages Israel’s ability to deter terrorism in the future, and it sends a signal of weakness which actually encourages terrorism. So why are they doing it?

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying, “This is a gesture and a trust-building move aimed at bolstering the moderates in the Palestinian Authority and the peace process.”

Translation: The US administration really wants an agreement before it goes home.

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Short-sighted thinking

Friday, August 15th, 2008

News item:

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in the Gaza Strip have announced that they are in possession of “Nasser-4” rockets that have a range of 25 kilometers and pose a threat to Ashdod…

The unveiling of the new rockets is a “clear violation” of the truce with Israel, Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev told CNN.

“The cease-fire that was negotiated through Egypt was very specific that the Hamas movement and the other terrorist groups can’t use it as a period to import more weapons, more explosives, more rockets into the Gaza Strip,” Regev added.

Was there the slightest doubt that the terrorists would take this opportunity to improve their position?

Weren’t Israeli authorities aware of the hundreds of tunnels and the massive smuggling enterprise that has made absolutely everything available to Hamas and associates?

Since the ceasefire has been in effect, Hamas has imported cement for building bunkers and fortifications, and has mined strategic areas in the Strip. It has even sent operatives to Iran for training. Many observers predicted this, and certainly the Israeli government must have expected it.

Sometimes a ceasefire is advantageous to both sides, if it allows for a cooling off period during which negotiations can proceed for a compromise solution of a dispute. If there is a diplomatic opening, then it should be taken. That is one way to end a war.

But there is no imaginable compromise between Israel and Hamas, whose reason for being is to destroy Israel. Peace is preferable to war, but self-defense often requires violence. As I’ve written innumerable times, the war between Israel and Hamas can only end with one side or the other victorious. Israeli decision-makers know this too.

But nevertheless they agreed to a ceasefire which benefits Hamas. They got a certain amount of time free of massive rocket fire — although not entirely — which ‘solved’ the problem that Israelis living in rocket range were becoming more and more militant in demanding a solution. For now.

However, it created a greater problem, which will be reflected in casualty figures when the IDF finally confronts Hamas. This will be the case both for soldiers and for Isareli civilians in Sderot, Ashdod, etc.

Why did they do this? One reason is simply weakness: take the short-term gain and worry about the long term damage, er, in the long term. Another is probably international pressure on Israel not to do anything that might involve Palestinian civilian casualties.

There is an irony here: the official policy of the Israeli government today is to try to reach an agreement with ‘moderate’ Palestinians and to implement a two-state solution. This is being pushed hard by the US and the EU, to the point of forcing Israel to make concessions that are dangerous to her security. But the biggest obstacle to the success of this plan (if indeed it has any chance) — is Hamas!

No Palestinian state controlled or significantly influenced by Hamas could live at peace alongside Israel. But the growing power of Hamas has made it highly unlikely that a state could be established today that would not shortly become a Hamas terror state.

Therefore, if the US, EU, and others want Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and allow a Palestinian state to be established, they would do well to permit Israel to do what it must do anyway from the standpoint of self-defense, and put an end to Hamas in Gaza as well as the West Bank.

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Little powers and big ones

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

One lesson that we can learn from the nasty war in Georgia is that if you are a small nation, a big power can crush you like a gnat. And you can’t necessarily depend on promises from other big powers to help you.

This is the problem of small nations, especially if they happen to be strategically located or important in some other way. Georgia’s pipelines from oil-rich Azerbijan into Turkey and to Georgia’s Black Sea ports make it ‘important’.

Israel is strategic because it is an obstacle to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Mideast, both the Iranian and al-Qaeda variety. But its primary importance may lie more in its ‘location’ in the world’s psychological space than geography. If the size of a nation was proportional to the amount of news coverage devoted to it, Israel would be right up there with Russia.

The Georgians probably wish they weren’t so important to Russia today. But Israel’s relationship to its big brother, the US, is different: it’s both positive and negative.

Israel receives large quantities of aid from the US, mostly in the form of  grants and loan guarantees which can be used to buy weapons in the US. It is often said that Israel is one of the largest recipients of US foreign aid in the world (although this is misleading —  the US provides military assistance to other countries (e.g., Pakistan) directly from its defense budget, and this isn’t counted as ‘foreign aid’).

Since 1973, this aid has bought the US almost complete control of Israeli policy. In the light of this, the assertions by Mearsheimer and Walt and others that Israeli influence affects US policies against its own interests are not only false, but laughable.

For example, the “Annapolis process” in which Israel is pressured to acquiesce and even assist in the arming of the Palestinian Authority (PA) while engaging in negotiations that — if they succeed — will result in Hamas control of the West Bank, is in no way in Israel’s interest. Nor are the restrictions placed on Israel’s possible responses  to Hamas terrorism from Gaza.

US interests include good relations with the Arab oil powers, and even — despite appearances — a relationship, albeit not an entirely happy one, with Iran. Iran could cause great mischief for the West quite easily, and nobody wants to provoke her.

For example, Aluf Benn in Ha’aretz reported today that Israel will not get certain unspecified military equipment from the US which could be used in an attack on Iranian nuclear installations:

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

On the plus side, if the US were not Israel’s patron, then she might be at the mercy of the Europeans who are both more dependent on Middle Eastern sources of oil and more driven by domestic politics to be pro-Arab than the US.

One of the complicating factors in the Israel-US relationship is the competing elements in the American government. State Department Arabists opposed Truman’s recognition of Israel in 1948, opposed Nixon’s resupply of the IDF in 1973, and since 1967 have tried mightily to get Israel out of the territories regardless of the cost to Israeli security.

The White House, on the other hand has often been quite friendly to Israel. There was Truman, of course. And Bush’s letter of 2004 — in which he suggested that final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state need not be the 1949 armistice lines and that Palestinian ‘refugees’ could not expect to ‘return’ to Israel proper — undoubtedly caused teeth to gnash at Foggy Bottom.

Israel’s dependence on the US and its political obsequiousness is not healthy. How to reduce it is a difficult but critical question, especially now that US geopolitical and economic clout in the world is in an increasingly precipitous decline.

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Ship[s] of Fools sailing to Gaza

Monday, August 11th, 2008

S.S. Liberty, with Useful Idiots on board

S.S. Liberty, with Useful Idiots on board

A pair of ships will leave Cyprus for Gaza tomorrow with the intention of  ‘breaking the blockade’.

Those on board will include three European parliamentarians, holocaust survivor Heddy Epstein, Jeff Halper, an Israeli and member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Lauren Booth, the sister of Cherrie Blair, and a number of journalists and human rights activists.

Ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center has backed the voyage as has former anti-Apartheid activist and Nobel Laureate winner, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu…

“We want to bring it to the world’s attention that Gaza is virtually an outdoor concentration camp,” Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, told AFP. — Middle East Times

And what a concentration camp! One supplied through literally hundreds of tunnels, some of which include fuel pipelines and have been used to smuggle everything from anti-aircraft missiles to zoo animals; one which fields an army of at more than 20,000 well-equipped and trained soldiers; and one which is developing its own weapons industry and fires its products into Israel on a regular basis.

Hamas receives funds directly from Iran, and the Palestinian Authority (i.e., the US and EU)  still pays its thousands of ’employees’ in Gaza although Hamas is in charge. There are also ‘refugee’ camps in Gaza — while Gaza is entirely governed by Palestinians, almost 500,000 ‘refugees’ are still in camps there — and these refugees receive money and services from the UNRWA, the UN organization which exists only to provide for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA too has thousands of employees in Gaza, but its charter is not to integrate refugees but rather to keep them separate until they can ‘return’ to Israel proper.

Many Gaza residents formerly worked in industrial zones near the border with Israel, or in Israel proper. Hamas has mortared and suicide-bombed the industrial zones and shells the crossings regularly, so this economic option is not open. And as I’ve mentioned before, even the infrastructure left behind by the evicted Israeli settlers was destroyed. So most Gaza residents either are employees of Hamas, the PA, or UNRWA, or they are refugees who receive UNRWA’s dole, or they ‘work’ in smuggling, or are members of criminal gangs or one of the smaller terrorist factions like the Islamic Jihad.

It’s easy to imagine what would happen if the crossings between Israel and Gaza were opened as the travelers on the Ship[s] of Fools would like. While there are undoubtedly Gazans who would welcome the opportunity to find work in Israel, Hamas would certainly take the opportunity to insert operatives, kidnap Israelis, etc. The Gaza crossings would indeed become the gates of hell.

What is interesting in an abnormal-psychology way is why people like Cherie Blair’s sister think that they are working for a worthy cause when Hamas has made it 100% clear by word and deed that they aim to kill Jews, eliminate the democratic nation of Israel and set up a fundamentalist Islamic state. Surely they can’t think that helping them in this enterprise will somehow improve the world.

The Israeli security establishment has had some time to think about this latest employment of the Useful Idiot brigade, so I hope they have a creative solution. Possibly just let them land in Gaza (one assumes that the women are prepared to don appropriate Islamic attire so they won’t get beaten up). They can make their statements about racist apartheid Israel and then get on their boats and go back to Cyprus.

Personally I’d say “sink the bastards”, but this is why I’m not in charge of anything more lethal than this blog.

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A bad day for Jews and Israel

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Today is Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both the first and the second Temple, as well as various other disasters in Jewish history. Tisha b’Av, of course, is a fast day. Sometimes I barely notice it, but this time I find myself very uncomfortable although it’s still early.

The evacuation of Gaza’s Jewish residents in 2005 began on the tenth day of Av. It’s been said that it was originally scheduled for Tisha b’Av until someone noticed, but I’ve been unable to verify that. It is a fact that the original name of the operation to uproot the settlements – chosen by an IDF computer at random – was zohar ha’rakia [heavenly brightness], which is a phrase from the el ma’aleh rahamim prayer that is recited when praying for the  dead at funerals and on Yom Kippur.  When someone pointed this out, the name was changed to the less-upsetting avnei derech [milestones].

Last month the Knesset ordered an inquiry into the treatment of the evacuees, 28% of whom still had not found permanent housing three years after being removed from their homes. Many claim that they have not received the compensation promised by the government. And many of them are still unemployed — they were, after all, farmers in Gaza — and, ironically they are being sued by their former Palestinian employees for ‘wrongful dismissal and non-payment of workers benefits’!

It’s hard, perhaps, for those of us who do not live in Israel or even for secular Israelis to understand the feeling of betrayal felt by the Religious Zionist component of Israeli society, who saw residents dragged from their homes by their own army and police, and watched Palestinians burn the synagogues and destroy the farms and hothouses that they had built over the past 30 years — which they were encouraged to do by successive Labor and Likud governments.

One can speculate that this violation of trust did as much or more damage to the fabric of Israeli society than the rockets which have fallen on southern Israel since then.

And Israel still has not paid the price of the coming confrontation with Hamas which the IDF’s abdication of control of the Egyptian border has guaranteed will be a high one. There’s no question that the ‘disengagement’ from Gaza — both in concept and execution — was a huge fashla [f—up], no less important than the Second Lebanon War in 2006 (which also spanned Tisha b’Av, by the way).Israeli stamp commemorating Gush Katif

To absolutely put the icing on the cake, the Israeli government has just issued a postage stamp commemorating the settlements of Gush Katif, formerly located in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.  Here it is, with the names of the settlements at the bottom. Under the picture of children happily playing is a verse from the prophet Amos, which translates (I am not making this up, as Dave Barry would say) as follows:

And they shall never again be uprooted from their land

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